View Full Version : PLAY Magazine Article on Nash.

10-25-2007, 08:43 PM
Six-page article on Nash and the group of NBA players he led to China this summer. Mekes it hard to hate him properly. Page 1 below.


Not to Get Too Mystical About It
Published: October 28, 2007

Steve Nash sat down on a playground bench in Washington Market park, like all the other tired Manhattan fathers.

It was a summer evening, late in August, and somewhere in the scrum of kids roiling under the monkey bars was one of his 3-year-old twin girls, Lola, and her nanny. A rubber ball came bounding by with a pre-K hotshot in hot pursuit. He seemed like the sort of kid who in a few years would be shooting baskets behind a school, pretending he was Steve Nash. Nash from the corner!

Nash driving the lane! Nash in the media room talking to a reporter!

At the sight of the kid, the wariness melted out of Nash’s blue eyes. It was easy to imagine the N.B.A. star himself at that age, before he had his paper route, before the local newspaper clips began to trickle in, and the trophies, and the fans, and the Sports Illustrated covers, and the instructional DVDs, and the $11-million-a-year contract and now the 11 seasons as a pro in which he has enjoyed every success but a championship, his one remaining goal as a professional athlete. The hint of sweetness that crossed his stoic face said he knew how joyful and profound the rapport of a boy and a ball could be. Nearly all the canonical stories of Nash’s ascent to the pantheon of N.B.A. point guards feature some kind of ball, whether it is the round mound of wadded-up tape he and his younger brother Martin used to play hall-hockey with, or the basketball he took out to shoot on Christmas Eve in the rain at the junior-high-school court behind his parents’ house in Victoria, British Columbia, or the tennis ball he once dribbled around Santa Clara University on his way to class, or the soccer ball he once kept aloft for 600 consecutive kicks until he collapsed. A ball had been the talisman of what he called “my dream.”

Then again, maybe what the ball-crazed kid provoked had as much to do with the fact that Nash often found himself in the position of pretending to be Steve Nash, too: “Steve Nash” the brand pushing the ball up court on the Wheaties box or hawking watches and sneakers and bottles of Clearly Canadian water; “Steve Nash” the white, non-dunking, four-time all-star whose back-to-back Most Valuable Player Awards won him the unwanted role of minority-race champion in a predominantly black league; “Steve Nash” the self-effacing Canadian long shot whose life story had been puréed into an edifying fable about Chasing Your Dreams and Working Hard and Always Giving Back, and in some parts of his home country had been polished to such a saintly sheen that people called him Can-Je, short for “Canadian Jesus.” Nash himself sometimes seemed flustered by this double team of person and persona, struggling to reconcile his sardonic sense of humor and lethal competitive instincts with the humanitarian concerns that obliged him to ladle out all kinds of canned corn at charity events and celebrity appearances. What can you say without playing yourself false, or leaving your body completely, when zoo officials who have paid you the compliment of naming a 12-pound female Bengal tiger cub in your honor put the razor-clawed kitty-cat in your arms and stick a microphone in your face? (Shrewdly, Nash channeled Tiger Woods: “It’s pretty special.”) Or for that matter, what about the play-killing questions routinely lobbed by sportswriters after the game?

“It’s always the same three questions,” Nash said. “ ‘What do you think about the game tonight?’ ‘How do you feel about the game tomorrow night?’ ‘What do you think you’ll have to do differently next time?’ I started off trying to answer honestly, and then I tried being ironic, but that didn’t really work either. . . . ”

In the park, a stranger approached, hand extended.

“Steve Nash!” the man said.

“Hey, man,” Nash said, shaking his hand after a quick assessment.

“I love your game.”


Nash’s game had been on the shelf for three months, since the Phoenix Suns were muscled out of the second round of the Western Conference playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs, who went on to win the N.B.A. championship against the overmatched Cleveland Cavaliers. It was a bitter end for the Suns’ championship hopes, and for Nash especially. A Game 1 collision with Spurs guard Tony Parker had split his nose so badly that Nash had to leave the court at a crucial moment in the fourth quarter. It took six stitches to close the bloody gash. In Game 4 the Spurs forward Robert Horry forechecked him into the scorer’s table, and the ensuing melee cost the Suns their big men when Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw were suspended one game each for leaving the bench. Losing the series 4-2 was a defeat that would “forever haunt us,” Nash said at the time. In the months since, he’d consoled himself with the distractions of New York, the adopted off-season city where he has spent the last three summers with his wife, Alejandra, and their twins, Lola and Bella.

“I’ve had a great summer,” he was saying now as he stretched out on the bench. He was wearing cargo shorts, a gray T-shirt and laceless black Converse sneakers. “I watched Tiger Woods and Roger Federer. I went to movies and restaurants. I had great conversations.”

He stayed in shape mainly by working out with a trainer and playing soccer at Pier 40 off the Hudson River with a team sponsored by Phebe’s Tavern & Grill in the East Village. When he took up basketball in the eighth grade it was for “social reasons,” a means of hanging out with his friends. Being able to use his hands felt almost like cheating, because the sport he loved best was soccer. “ ‘Goal’ was my first word,” he told me, a vintage Nash brand detail found in nearly every profile of him. Nash’s English father, John, played soccer professionally in South Africa, where Nash was born; his Welsh mother, Jean, had various careers as an airline ticket agent, secretary and special-education teacher. Sickened by apartheid, they emigrated to Canada when Steve was one, eventually settling in Victoria.